Nationals give it away, 2-1, on bad throw with 2 outs in 9th

Guzman's error allows both Braves runs to score

Baseball

April 22, 2005|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - The once fearsome Atlanta Braves were one out away yesterday from slinking out of town with what would have been a second straight shutout loss to the Washington Nationals.

But something happened on the way to the Nationals' victory lap.

Maybe it was the wet conditions or the pressure or simply bad luck. Whatever the cause, Washington shortstop Cristian Guzman threw wildly to first on Raul Mondesi's bases-loaded grounder with two outs in the ninth inning, allowing the winning runs to score in a 2-1 Atlanta victory.

The error ended a string of 21 consecutive scoreless innings by Washington pitchers and caused the first loss of the season for the Nats' bullpen, which was 5-0.

And it salvaged a measure of dignity for the Braves, who had lost four of their previous five games and three in a row to the Nationals.

His teammates weren't faulting Guzman, who fielded the ball off the wet infield and rushed his throw. It had been raining most of the day and the infield condition was "horrible," said Washington manager Frank Robinson.

"He's made those plays before," Robinson said of his shortstop. "It is a very difficult play under the circumstances."

Asked if the game should have been stopped because of the weather, Robinson said, "I have no control over that. I can't tell the umpire to stop the game." He said baseball seems inclined these days to finish such games rather than delaying them.

Before the ninth, the Nats had been sailing along behind the pitching of John Patterson, who has not allowed a run in his last two starts.

Yesterday, Patterson gave up a single to the second batter he faced, Marcus Giles, then retired 16 in a row before Rafael Furcal lined a single up the middle with two outs in the sixth.

Patterson was lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh after giving up two walks in the top of the inning. Hector Carrasco came on to pitch a scoreless eighth for the Nats.

But closer Chad Cordero immediately ran into trouble in the ninth, surrendering a single, a walk and another single to load the bases. Cordero struck out Brian Jordan and Adam LaRoche before Mondesi's hard grounder led to Guzman's errant throw.

First baseman Nick Johnson said the throw handcuffed him. It was "a sort of in-between ball running right in. It just tailed," Johnson said.

Cordero wasn't faulting anyone but himself. "I'm the one that loaded the bases. I just gave up the two hits and a walk," he said.

Atlanta Starter John Smoltz pitched seven innings and gave up just one run - on Jose Guillen's two-out, RBI single in the fourth. Chris Reitsma (1-0) got the win in relief.

Smoltz said the weather "was tough for everybody. I slipped on about four or five pitches and still managed to make a couple good ones. I'm not sure how."

Said Washington's Jose Vidro: "I'm just glad nobody got hurt."

NOTE: Authorities said a fan who tumbled off an inside ramp at RFK Stadium on Wednesday night had his fall broken before landing 20 to 40 feet below. "As he fell, he sort of bounced off railings on parts of ramps lower down, so that broke his fall," Kathryn Friedman of D.C. Fire and Emergency Services said yesterday. "He was alert and conscious when we got to him." She declined to identify the 42-year-old fan, whose fall occurred after a Nats-Braves night game. Stadium authorities say the man suffered multi-system trauma, but his condition seems to have stabilized.

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